Final Child Welfare Action in the 111th Congress

By Holden, Courteney | Policy & Practice, February 2011 | Go to article overview

Final Child Welfare Action in the 111th Congress


Holden, Courteney, Policy & Practice


When it comes to needy children and families, lawmakers in the 112th Congress will have a full plate, with much of the legislation left over from 2010. The 111th Congress did achieve passage of one piece of legislation that had been pending since 2008--reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. CAPTA had expired in 2008 and has been funded through appropriations in the last two years. The reauthorization measure, S. 3817, passed both chambers in the December 2010 "lame-duck" session. CAPTA provides limited funds for such services as early intervention. It is one of the key pieces of legislation that guides child protection and sets a minimum definition of child abuse and neglect for each state to follow. CAPTA's discretionary grants fund public agencies and nonprofit service providers, and the act also gives formula-based grants to states for child abuse prevention and treatment programs. Overall, the range of projects under CAPTA is quite broad.

S. 3817 includes a small increase of $13 million as well as additional requirements for states wishing to accept grant funding. States must assure that court-appointed special advocates receive training on early childhood development; that infants with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are included in the mandated reporting policies and receive needed services; and that accompanied youth receive supports as well. The legislation also emphasizes collaboration between child protection and domestic violence agencies.

Each year, state and local child protection agencies respond to and serve millions of children who are abused and neglected. States voluntarily submit child abuse statistics to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System annually. In the most recent Maltreatment Report issued by the Administration for Children and Families' Children's Bureau (for fiscal year 2008), an estimated 3.3 million referrals, involving the alleged maltreatment of approximately 6.0 million children, were received by child protective services agencies. Of these, approximately 63 percent of the referrals were screened in for investigation or assessment by these agencies, meaning that nearly 2 million reports (involving 3.7 million children) had an investigation or assessment. Overall, there was a 3 percent decline in the rate of substantiated child maltreatment from 2007 to 2008. This represents about 772,000 children, which is the lowest level of child maltreatment since NCANDS was established more than two decades ago. State and local child protection agencies are providing services to reduce child abuse and neglect with fewer resources, both financial and staff.

Although CAPTA funding is vital to CPS agencies, it is only a small fraction of the total funding streams that focus on needy children and families. In 2010, CAPTA's grants were funded at a little more than $97 million (child protection services grants at $26.5 million, discretionary grant program at $29 million, and community-based grant program at $41.6 million). The Senate and President Obama included a small funding increase as part of the appropriations and budget process during last year's negotiations.

When S. 3817 was introduced last fall, it was clear that lawmakers were interested in requiring states to cover new targeted populations in order to receive grants. This bill makes a number of changes to state grant assurances and includes additional ones such as mandated reporting and serving of children with suspected Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The use of the differential response approach and collaboration between child protection and domestic violence is also highly encouraged throughout the legislation.

One provision of the legislation that assists child welfare agencies in reducing the administrative burden is the proposed change in the five-year plan requirement. Currently, states must submit a comprehensive plan on how they intend to operate child welfare and protection systems, particularly focusing on how they will use federal resources such as CAPTA and Title IV-B funds (the funding stream provides family preservation and support services). …

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